Get a Grip: How to Hold a Shinai

By: Tom Tew Sensei
Note- this article was first written by me for the SCKF newsletter back in 1996. It has since resided on the Covina Dojo web site, for a whole bunch of years. This is a duplicate of the same information, just reformatted slightly…

Holding a shinai is simple, right? It’s a matter of personal style, right? Wrong. There is one correct way to hold a shinai, and many of us have yet to learn it. Following are photos of the right and wrong way to hold a shinai, courtesy of Mr. Masashi Shikai (7 Dan), head instructor of Chuo Dojo in Los Angeles, California.

Notice how beautifully the right hand lines up with the top of the shinai, and how firmly the left hand sets. It is important that the left hand, especially the pinky and ring finger, provide the strength while right hand, along with its own pinky and ring finger, help direct the shinai to its target.
Left Side View- notice how the right hand’s bottom two fingers grip the shinai, and how the top fingers rest lightly yet firmly so that the wrist can flex.
Right Side View- notice the pinky at the end of the shinai, and how the bottom two fingers provide most of the power. Also notice how secure the right hand position appears.
The photo illustrates two possible problems. First the right hand could be holding the shinai too tightly, resulting in a closed grip that resembles a fist. Second, the left hand could be too far up the shinai. The left hand needs to be at the very end of the shinai, with the left hand pinky finger slightly on the bottom.
The right hand could also be rolled over in such a way that the fingernails end up on top.

There are many other reasons for a bad grip- the key is to be able to recognize the feel of a proper grip and to maintain it at all times. This will save energy, make kendo easier, and improve your speed and technique.